Teach native and heritage Spanish speakers in a program designed for them.
When I started my Spanish teaching career in rural Ohio, I thought I was ready to tackle anything.
I was wrong.
Although I was prepared to teach Spanish, no one told me how many of my students already spoke Spanish at home.
I wondered why they were assigned to a Spanish 1 class, where the curriculum was for students who had never heard hola beyond Dora the Explorer. I also wondered how I, a blonde–haired, blue-eyed, non-native speaker, would be able to reach those students and build credibility.
If you’ve had similar experiences, you might be thinking of starting a Spanish for Spanish speakers class. Here’s what I learned.
Why Differentiation for Heritage or Native Spanish Speakers Isn’t Enough
To meet the needs of my native and heritage speakers in my Spanish 1 class, I tried to differentiate instruction for them by:
But I knew they needed more.
They didn’t need tougher assignments or busywork. What my Spanish-speaking students needed were resources that emphasized academic vocabulary in reading and writing. They needed materials that were individualized to each of their wide-ranging proficiency levels. And they really needed a program that validated what they had learned at home—not one that enforced a “right” Spanish.
But I didn’t have resources that matched their needs.
Everything changed after I relocated to Arizona and transitioned into my role as a curriculum coordinator. There, I oversaw a Spanish for Spanish speakers course.
Benefits of a Spanish for Spanish Speakers Class
At my new district, I saw the benefits of a Spanish for Spanish speakers course created especially for native and heritage speakers of Spanish.
Students in these classes:
Now, as a Senior Manager of School Partnerships for our world language professional learning team, I get to work with colleagues and partner with world language educators who truly understand the need and value of Spanish for Spanish speaker classes and curriculum.
If you teach in a district with hispanohablantes who are getting assigned to a Spanish class that doesn’t fit their needs, it might be time to launch a Spanish for Spanish speakers class made just for them.
10 Essential Steps for Launching a Spanish for Spanish Speakers Class
Launching a new class is always exciting, but effective planning is essential to ensure the program's success. With the right preparation, you'll be able to support your native and heritage Spanish speakers with a positive learning environment that fosters their love of the Spanish language and their cultural heritage.
So, let’s dive into the ten essential steps for launching a new Spanish for Spanish speakers class!
Before you launch your Spanish for Spanish speakers class, determine your goals and objectives.
You’ll better understand what you hope to accomplish with the class and what you want your students to gain from their experience.
Do you want them to expand their vocabulary? Improve their grammar? Gain a deeper understanding of their own cultures?
Make sure your goals and objectives are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Launching a Spanish for Spanish speakers class requires approval and funding.
You may need to present your proposal to school administrators or government agencies and seek district or community support. Share information about why a Spanish for Spanish speakers class is needed in your community and how it will benefit students.
Ask your administrators about the specific timeline for the process, as it often starts in the fall of the school year before you want to launch the new class.
You should also prepare a plan to secure funding for the proposed class. Grants and other funding opportunities may be available. You may need to reach out to potential donors and sponsors—this would particularly be applicable in charter or private schools.
A well-crafted proposal and budget plan, along with support from your community, will help you secure the funding you need to launch your Spanish for Spanish speakers class.
If you can’t access financial resources to launch a class due to budget cuts, how about funding for a classroom library for hispanohablantes?
To launch your Spanish for Spanish speakers class, you must assess and understand your students' needs and interests.
What do your students want to learn? What motivates them, and what challenges do they face? You can gather this information through surveys, focus groups, or individual meetings with students.
Consider your students' backgrounds, prior experiences with Spanish, goals for the class, and preferred topics and activities. Using this information, you can create a program that meets your students' specific needs and interests and increases their motivation and engagement.
Your new Spanish for Spanish speakers class may be the first of its kind at your school or district, but you can find inspiration from existing classes in your area, state, or even across the country.
To start, research what nearby districts are doing in their Spanish classes for heritage and native speakers by visiting their websites or asking if you can see their program in action with an onsite visit.
You can also browse regional or national world language conference programs to see who has presented on this topic and see if they have any publications for further research. Crowdsourcing ideas in world language Facebook groups and on Twitter can work, too!
Don’t shy away from reaching out to program directors or teachers directly. As you probably know, world language educators are a passionate, helpful community, so the educators you reach out to might be willing to share their lesson plans or scope and sequence if you ask.
As you collect information about other Spanish for Spanish speaker programs, you might want to ask what curriculum and resources they use, what the community demographics are to see how similar they are to yours, and what has and hasn’t worked for them.
Research curriculum options and materials before setting up a Spanish for Spanish speakers class.
One program to consider is En voz alta: Español para hispanohablantes. Designed for Spanish native and heritage speakers, this program offers a range of benefits, including:
No matter what curriculum you choose, make sure it allows students to embrace and celebrate their cultural heritage and foster their confidence in expressing themselves.
After you’ve decided on your goals and objectives, assessed your students’ needs and interests, and landed on curriculum materials, you’re ready to put that all into the scope and sequence.
Your scope and sequence outlines the course and gives a timeline for pacing. It should follow a backward design, which outlines the goals and objectives of each class, the topics and activities you will cover, and the methods you will use to teach and assess your students.
As you plan your schedule, consider the length of each class, the frequency of classes, the start and end date of the program, and any breaks or holidays.
A well-designed scope and sequence will help you stay organized and assure your program runs smoothly and effectively.
Once your teachers for your Spanish for Spanish speakers program are determined, set them up for success with training and support.
If you’re taking the initiative of launching a course for native and heritage Spanish speakers, you’re probably the first to know the importance of teachers being culturally sensitive and knowledgeable about their students' cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Don’t forget these additional training needs: program orientation, teaching methodologies, resources, and ongoing professional development opportunities.
Ideally, the curriculum you’ve chosen is from a publisher who also provides professional learning services. For example, Carnegie Learning provides both curriculum with En voz alta and professional learning services for implementation support and pedagogical workshops.
Your Spanish for Spanish speakers class will be successful if you build a class community of support, engagement, and inclusivity.
You can foster such a community by inviting students to share their experiences in group activities and open discussions. You might ask students to:
Also, don't hesitate to reach out and engage with the broader community! Involving parents and other community members can help build a strong student support network. Not only will your students benefit in their language development, but being part of a wider Spanish-speaking community will help preserve and promote their heritage and cultural identity.
Consider how to measure progress towards your goals and objectives and identify areas for improvement with assessments, evaluations, or student portfolios.
You can conduct regular assessments and provide valuable feedback to students on their language skills in various ways, such as through written exams, oral presentations, casual conversations, group projects, or integrated performance assessments (IPAs).
Make sure to review the assessments that come with whatever curriculum you’re using to confirm they align with your goals and objectives, as well as your scope and sequence.
You made it! Launching a new class is no small feat, so celebrate your successes.
Keep up the momentum by making time to reflect on what's working well and what could use improvement in order to continuously refine your Spanish for Spanish speakers program.
Collect feedback, too! Regularly seek input from students on their learning experiences, as well as from caregivers and colleagues, to help you make informed changes to your program.
Be proud of what you've accomplished while continually striving for excellence. You and your students deserve nothing less!
The Importance of Maintaining Linguistic and Cultural Connections to Heritage
As I see more districts launching Spanish for Spanish speaker programs across the country, I’m excited that more native and heritage Spanish speakers get to strengthen their connection to their roots and feel more empowered to pass down their culture and language to future generations.
Although there’s more work to do, I know we as Spanish language educators are up for the challenge!
Maggie is a veteran world language teacher and administrator with experience in instruction, curriculum design, and professional learning facilitation. She has served as President of the Arizona Language Association, as well as a member of ACTFL and the Ohio Foreign Language Association (OFLA). She loves how culture and language play a vital role in uniting the world around us. Maggie is also passionate in supporting world language teachers in and out of the classroom to help reach all our language learners.Explore more related to this author